Dubai: While Diego Maradona’s sacking as Al Wasl coach grabbed the sporting headlines on Wednesday, speculation is rife on who will be stepping into the hot seat. Former UAE boss Bruno Metsu looks the frontrunner to replace him, says a club source speaking on condition of anonymity.
Maradona, 51, was sacked on Tuesday night midway through a two-year contract, just a month after the club’s new board gave the Argentine legend a vote of confidence, denying reports of his much speculated end-of-season departure.
During his 14-month tenure, Maradona had led the team to eighth in the Etisalat Pro League, losing the final of the GCC Champions League and reaching the semis and quarters of the Etisalat and President’s Cups respectively.
Frenchman, Metsu, 58, was spotted in the stands at Zabeel Stadium during that GCC Champions League final loss and prompted the club to release a denial last month that Maradona was moving into an advisory role to make way for the former coach of Senegal, UAE and Qatar. Then poised to take over the hot seat at Iranian Pro League club Persepolis, Metsu - who was sacked by Qatar’s Al Gharafa in March - lost out to Portuguese coach Manuel Jose earlier this month, freeing him up for negotiations with Al Wasl.
Denying former Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp’s linking to the vacancy, a club source told Gulf News on Wednesday: “Metsu is now 90 per cent certain to be the next coach of Al Wasl. There is no-one else in the frame.” Metsu is most famous for guiding Senegal to the quarter-finals of World Cup 2002, finishing a runner-up at the African Nations earlier that year. He also won the 2007 Gulf Cup for UAE.
Over two spells with Qatar’s Gharafa, Metsu won the Qatar Star’s League in 2005, the Shaikh Jassim Cup in 2006. He also lifted the Crown Prince Cup and Emir Cup double in 2011. With Al Ain he won the AFC Champions League in 2003 and two consecutive UAE league titles in 2003 and 2004.
Although 1986 World Cup winner Maradona couldn’t replicate the glory of his playing days while coaching Al Wasl, he has been credited with creating unprecedented media exposure for the club.
Rumoured and consequently denied to be on €3.5 million a year plus the use of a private jet and accomodation on the Palm Jumeirah, Brand Maradona reaped the following returns for Al Wasl; a 1,600 per cent increase in global media exposure for the club since joining, estimated to be worth Dh333 million.
Gate receipts at the halfway mark in the season were also said to be up 100 per cent on last season at Dh600,000. The club also claimed mid-term return of investments of Dh17 million, plus marketing profits of Dh10 million, having attracted sponsors such as Audi and Hublot to their portfolio.
Upon news of his sacking #Al Wasl and #DiegoMaradona were trending worldwide on social networking site twitter.com, an occurrence Metsu is unlikely to replicate regardless of his team’s achievements on the pitch.